At Levo, we’re admittedly quite fond of introverts. I’ve written several articles on the topic here, from “How To Stand Out in a Group of Extroverts” to the recent “Oh Yes, You Can Fake An Outgoing Personality at Work.” According to Susan Cain’s prevalent book Quiet, the word “introvert” no longer has a negative stigma surrounding it. We’ve published articles on how both introverts and extroverts can excel in manager roles, speak up more authoritatively in meetings, and knock an interview out of the park. It’s no secret that introverts are awesome. But now that the world is finally beginning to catch on, we can expect even more studies and theories on introversion in the future.
[Related: 10 Habits of Successful Introverts]
In an attempt to gain a greater understanding of introverts, some psychologists have started subcategorizing them. Jonathan Cheek, a Wellesley Psychology Professor, has published two papers on the topic. “Four Meanings of Introversion: Social, Thinking, Anxious, and Inhibited Introversion,” and later, “Personality Scales for Four Domains of Introversion: Social, Thinking, Anxious, and Restrained Introversion.” (They renamed the Inhibited domain Restrained.) Dr. Perpetua Neo claims that “society demonizes and punishes difference,” whether it be introversion, autism, or any other mental health disorder. Everybody is unique in their way and, like all human differences, each has a hidden power. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, but as long as we learn how to harness them, they can be our superpowers. Amen to that!
If you’re picturing the typical introvert when reading this, then you’re thinking of a social introvert. They love spending time around others but in small groups as opposed to large gatherings. Being by themselves is what recharges them and they see it as valuable time.
[Related: How To Make Your Networking Conversations More Meaningful]
Your secret powers: Developing long-lasting relationships and loyalty
“As the saying goes, it is better to have a few friends than many acquaintances, because your few friends have your back and you know you can depend on them when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan,” says Neo.“ As we get to know people better, we feel more comfortable opening up to them. According to Brené Brown, being vulnerable is a sign of strength. Therefore, social introverts who are loyal to their friends tend to reap the benefits of those friendships.
Neo contends that social introverts who take the time to care for themselves can teach us all an important lesson. “Social introverts know their boundaries, and they are a big lesson in teaching us about self-care, self-love and the Joy Of Missing Out (as opposed to the Fear Of Missing Out). The basis of everything—our careers, love lives, well being, etc.—is ourselves. We are the best investments we can make. And when we start with self-respect and self-love, this helps us create a fundamentally stronger sense of self and well being.”
[Related: The Introvert’s Guide to Speaking Up in Meetings]
There is a common misconception that introverts are aloof and uninterested in social interaction. In reality, introverts are often very thoughtful and insightful, with rich inner lives.
Your secret powers: Going beyond the status quo to come up with new and better ideas.
“Because creativity is about integrating ideas that most would otherwise see as separate, thinking introverts are innovative and help people to think out of the box,” Neo says. “In organizations and groups, they aren’t quick to talk over other people just to assert dominance. Instead, they are happy to express their opinions whilst respecting others; and because they are creative, they facilitate those groups toward innovative, unprecedented solutions. They also excel in helping people to reflect on their experiences, feelings, and thoughts so that we can grow and develop ourselves.”
Anxious introverts are, as one might guess, quite shy. They will often miss out on social opportunities because they don’t feel confident enough or worry that they’ll seem awkward. An anxious introvert’s mind is always occupied with thoughts of what went wrong in the past or could go wrong in the future.
Your secret powers: Planning and attention to detail
“People who are anxious can often be organized planners, because they consider the worst case scenarios and details,” Neo says. “Put simply, they are the kind of people who go into a building and are vigilant about the emergency exits. When hyper-vigilant and caught up with the stress, this isn’t necessarily good. But when a balanced approach is taken, anxious introverts are dependable. We can count on them to help us feel safe. Moreover, being used to solitude, anxious introverts have a lot of lessons to teach us in terms of being alone and feeling lonely. It teaches us a sense of self-sufficiency, which can be vital for those of us who feel dependent on continuous social interactions to feel good about ourselves.”
Restrained introverts are careful and methodical. They may sometimes appear to work more slowly than others, but this is because they always think before they speak or act.
Your secret powers: Reflection and wisdom
“Restrained introverts are more reflective because they are able to step back and see the bigger picture without getting caught up in the emotions and drama. To me, they can embody the Taoist philosophical concept of Wu-Wei, in which doing nothing can sometimes be the best form of response. In corporate settings where the bottom line is sacred, we are sometimes too caught up in responding as quickly as possible. Yet we know that when we are caught in a whirlwind of emotions, we react in ways that might actually be less efficient and effective. The person who does not react immediately isn’t necessarily dull or slow. She may be a source of wisdom, as she knows that reacting isn’t necessarily the wisest solution. She is also the voice of wisdom and sanity in group dynamics when everyone is caught up in the drama or pressured to say the same thing.”
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